Dale K. Pollet, Benedict, Linda F. | 10/11/2006 12:18:00 AM
Authorities are releasing a natural enemy of the pink hibiscus mealybug to try to bring this insect, which is a danger to both nursery and agricultural crops, under control, LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet said Tuesday (Oct. 10).
Pollet, who also recommended leaving the battle with this bug to the experts, said officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are providing tiny parasitic wasps for release this week in Jefferson Parish, where the pink hibiscus mealybug was confirmed last week.
"This wasp is no danger to anything else, including humans, but is very effective in getting rid of the mealybugs," Pollet said.
The reason the mealybug calls for such a high level of control is that the insect poses a serious threat to ornamental plants such as the hibiscus, bougainvillea, palm and oleander as well as agricultural crops such as sugarcane, corn, soybeans, vegetables and citrus. All of those are grown in southeast Louisiana.
This mealybug is an invasive species that originally was from Africa and Asia, although it now is found in North America, as well.
"If it gets firmly established here, this insect could be devastating," Pollet said. "There are more than 10,000 plants that this insect can potentially destroy."
The symptoms of a pink hibiscus mealybug infestation include heavy, cotton-like, white, waxy buildup on the terminals, stems and branches of infested plants.
Pictures of the insect and the result of its infestation are on the Web sites of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (www.ldaf.state.la.us) or the LSU AgCenter (www.lsuagcenter.com). On the LSU AgCenter site, you can click on Environment & Natural Resources, then Insects and then Scales or simply enter "pink hibiscus mealybug" in the search box found on the left of the AgCenter home page.
Pollet cautions people to call authorities if they think they find the mealybug. They can contact the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry, their parish LSU AgCenter Extension Service office or Pollet at (225) 578-2180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LSU AgCenter expert also advised it’s best if people don’t try to treat for the mealybug themselves, because they may interfere with the work of the parasitic wasps.
"They could potentially harm beneficial insects, including this wasp, in the process," Pollet said.
If, after checking with an authority, the decision is made to treat, Pollet recommends using granules or drenches with systemic materials, such as Merit. Do not spray.
"Always follow the directions for safety," he said.